Remember when you drove through Baja California and slept on the beach on the Sea of Cortez?
What about when you showed up in Amsterdam on New Year’s Eve without having booked somewhere to stay?
And the time in Australia when you couldn’t find the campground so you ended up sleeping in a cemetery?
Ah, the carefree travel stories of our youth!
Nothing like a combination of meager funds, haphazard planning, and misplaced optimism. Looking back, I cringe, but somehow it worked out, right? I don’t recall being traumatized by any of it!
I don’t seem at all concerned that it’s New Years Eve, and I didn’t book anywhere to stay. (Amsterdam, NYE 2001)
It happened imperceptibly at first, but then somewhere around the age of 28, my travel stories became veritably mundane.
I still traveled, but it was of the ‘visit-family’ variety. We definitely made hotel reservations. There was no sleeping in cemeteries of any kind.
What happened? I had a “real” job and had met my husband around this time. Coincidence? Probably not. Can I blame the job and husband? Absolutely! But those are just excuses.
The truth is, I got complacent. Convinced that since I’m working, and commuting, and exercising, and paying a mortgage, I’m doing the best I can. Hey – I’m taking care of pets, a husband, and a house over here!
Do adventure and carefree travel only exist for the young? Would the world really fall apart if you prioritized adventure and travel a little more?
A year ago, I did the previously unthinkable and stepped away from the career I’d been building for nearly 20 years.
I realized then (when the heavens didn’t fall) that I could have changed my reality at any time. It was hard to admit it, but I had been living a pretty ordinary life, of my own design, and I was miserable.
Was I blindly buying into the American obsession with work and career without even realizing it? Probably! I just didn’t know another way and I’m sure I’m not alone there.
If I ask you, why don’t you have adventures anymore, what will you say?
Work? Pets? Kids? Husband? Money? Time? Guilted into being on the HOA board? Cactus garden obsession completely out of control?
If you want to claw back some adventure into your life, check out these 7 tips I’ve created to start making it happen. If you prefer to work on paper, there’s a downloadable worksheet at the end.
I’m looking pretty cheerful considering I spent the night in a cemetery! (Somewhere in New South Wales, 2000)
7 tips to make travel happen (despite all your excuses)
1) Start a Dream list.
Start a running list of everything you want to accomplish, everywhere you want to travel to, and every adventure you want to experience before you kick it.
The husband had me complete this exercise last year after reading The Dream Manager by Matthew Kelly. I carried a notebook around for weeks, adding to the list with the intention of reaching 100 Dreams.
Obviously, because I’m a travel nerd, many of my 100 Dreams were destinations that I wanted to visit, but not all. Some were goals for my businesses, bad habits I wanted to break, and nagging home improvement projects that I wanted to see completed. Whatever it is, put it on the list!
2) Confront your excuses.
What’s holding you back? Think about what you’d like to do, and then write down why you haven’t done it. Want to visit South America or the Great Wall of China? Get SCUBA certified? People do these things every day.
Whatever your reason is, think about it critically. Can anything change? Most limitations are self-imposed, in my humble experience.
An example from my own life: even though I don’t have children, my husband works insane hours, we have 3 dogs, and a house and property that are fairly high maintenance. When I am home, between my businesses and taking care of the house, husband, and crew, I rarely have a free moment (according to me).
When plotting a trip for later this month to visit my family in California, I felt guilty about leaving for longer than 5 days, but it really made more sense to go for at least a week. After agonizing about it, I brought it up to the husband, and he just shrugged and said, Ok, whatever!
See, he knows that he’ll survive. Sure, I’ll be worried that everyone will be dead from dehydration by the time I get back, but they probably won’t. And how will they learn to get on without me, if I never leave?
3) Shake it up a little.
If you want to inject some adventure back into your life, you need to start somewhere. No need to jump on the next flight to Delhi, abandoning your cat or your kids in an Eat, Pray, Love-type emergency.
While you are working on your list of travel and adventure goals, try a mini-adventure challenge. It can be as small as changing up your lunch routine to check out a new noodle place every Monday. Instead of your standby yoga class, try a different instructor or studio for the next 5 visits. Sign up for that welding class.
The goal here is to reinvigorate yourself, not blow your budget or add more commitments to your already packed schedule. Which brings me to step 4.
4) Quit being “busy”.
Of course, you have commitments. By ‘busy’, I mean those responsibilities that we end up signing up for, that suck our energy but don’t fulfill us in any way. A good way to tell is if you feel like you SHOULD do it, but you really don’t want to. You don’t have to do it, you don’t want to do it, but something (guilt?) is telling you that you should volunteer to be on the Board of your HOA. Fuck Should. Clear the decks and cancel that shit. They’ll survive without you.
5) Make a plan.
Impromptu trips across the border might have happened when you were in college, but it’s doubtful that with a house and family, adventure and travel is going to materialize in your life without some planning efforts.
Last December, I created a loose travel plan for this coming new year. I looked up conferences I wanted to go to, emailed friends I wanted to see, and scheduled it all out on my Google Calendar. Twelve months of travel enticingly scheduled. My problem is unbridled optimism, so I immediately saw I was going to have to scale back my expectations. Your issue might be your kids’ summer holidays or a significant work deadline. Whatever your situation, plan it all out, and put it on the calendar.
Now you can make arrangements for house sitters, schedule PTO, and start your budgeting.
6) Make a budget.
I’m not going to win any financial management awards, I assure you. But I like to do fun things, and I don’t like being broke, therefore I’ve developed a strategy of putting money aside specifically for travel.
I have two travel bank accounts, one for solo trips, and one for trips with the husband. Every payday, I automatically transfer money into those accounts. I personally use Charles Schwab, which is an excellent choice for those that travel internationally (all ATM fees are reimbursed!).
How much you transfer is going to obviously depend on what you can afford, and the amount and type of travel you have sketched out for the year. Maybe you have one account designated for a few weekends away, and a separate savings account where you put money aside for the month long trip to Asia of your dreams.
7) Pull the trigger.
There are no points awarded for being the most prepared. You will have to book something. Don’t agonize over the decision. If you’ve put the money aside, confronted your excuses, and trimmed your schedule, just book the damn ticket already.
For extra points, share your list with someone. It was insightful, moving even, reading my husband’s Dream List and having him read mine. I mean, why shouldn’t we be helping each other achieve our dreams and goals? Isn’t that the whole point of getting married?! (Plus, it’s an excellent resource to consult for every birthday and Christmas present idea from here on out. I’m not sure I would have had the idea to get the husband a day racing a Ferrari in Las Vegas for his 40th birthday, without it.)
Don’t have a significant other? Trade lists with your sister, your best friend, or your mother. Hell, send it to me at email@example.com. I would be happy to cheer for you when you board that flight to Delhi.